Healthcare Debate Over Abortion
Special Report - October 26, 2009
As Congressional leaders and the Obama Administration continue to press for an overhaul of the nation’s healthcare system, many Americans and their legislators remain concerned with the status of funding for abortion coverage in the various proposals. All of the five committees that have handled various versions of the House and Senate healthcare proposals have voted down every amendment that would specifically prohibit federal coverage or funding for abortions. Senators appear more skittish than their House counterparts to support a plan that includes both a government-run public option and expanded government funding for abortions.
Pro-life legislators remain concerned that the absence of an explicit prohibition on federal funding for abortions will jeopardize the current government policy against such funding. The Hyde Amendment, in conjunction with several other laws, prohibits federal funding for abortion except in the cases of rape, incest, and to save the life of the mother. That prohibition applies to Medicaid, the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, and the military. States make individual determinations on whether to use state funds to cover elective abortions. North Carolina is one of 17 states that pays for elective abortions as a part of the health plan for state employees. Pro-life Americans and members of Congress argue that because the healthcare bills create a new stream of federal funding not mentioned in current abortion prohibitive laws, the Hyde Amendment will not apply.
Senator Orrin Hatch (RUtah) has filed numerous amendments to explicitly prohibit federal funding and coverage of abortions as well as discrimination against individuals or entities who refuse to provide, pay for, cover, or refer for abortions. Each amendment has failed to pass a committee vote. He plans to offer those same amendments to whatever version of the bill is brought to the Senate floor for consideration.
Speculation in Washington is that Congress will be hard pressed to pass legislation before the end of the year. Many legislators are insisting on a lengthy floor debate with ample opportunity to offer amendments. The leadership of both chambers are fully engaged in trying to maintain a balance between moderate and conservative members, who have reservations about the government and abortion aspects of the issue, and liberals, who insist on a true public-option. Hefty Democrat majorities in both chambers are struggling to reach a consensus on an acceptable level of government involvement and whether abortion coverage is allowed as the bills are currently written. Debate continues over the cost of the plan as well, as members await a final fiscal analysis from the Congressional Budget Office. Compromises including a “trigger” option whereby the government plan would only kick in if private insurance coverage does not expand fast enough, and an “opt out” procedure whereby states could choose to not participate in the government-run plan are also being floated as a possible way to secure enough votes for passage.
"A significant majority of the American people have clearly said they do not favor abortion-on-demnad, and even more do not want their tax dollars to pay for abortion," said Bill Brooks, president of the North Carolina Family Policy Council. "Members of Congress should refuse to fund or allow the killing of innocents, whether through healthcare reform, health insurance plans or through federal programs that fund groups that perform abortions."
Copyright © 2009. North Carolina Family Policy Council. All rights reserved.